Why I hate Meetings

Man holding grumpy faceMy name is Courtney and I hate meetings. I always have and I always will. Me hating meetings does not mean I hate conversation, the people I work with, or my job. In fact I enjoy the people I work with and my job, and like speaking with my colleagues and clients very much. But I do not like meetings.

My name is Courtney and I’m an introvert. What is an introvert? An introvert is someone who works and thinks best alone, in silence. Introverts are not “people persons” but they’re not anti-social either. We like our space, we like our silence, and we like you, too. Extroverts, by contrast, work best and are happiest when surrounded by people, and do not enjoy being alone. They thrive in company, and usually do not understand the ways of an introvert. This point is important for you to know, and key to the rest of this blog post on why I hate meetings. To read more about introverts and extroverts, I recommend this article.

Meetings are, most likely, inventions of extroverts (people who thrive in the company of others). Meetings involve one person talking and other people listening. Extroverts come alive in meetings, especially if other extroverts are present (these are the meeting members who talk and “bounce ideas” around). But in most meetings, you’ll find a few people saying nothing at all, doodling, and probably wishing they were anywhere else (me). It is sometimes assumed that we doodlers are being rude by not listening and paying attention. I can’t speak for everyone, but that’s not me. I am listening and paying attention, I just have nothing to contribute. Sure, I have rude moments just as much as the next person, but in general I’m not rude at all. Meetings are just a place where I’m uncomfortable and, quite frankly, totally useless. Allow me to explain.

Extroverts need to talk to generate ideas. They’re predominantly verbal communicators, and without talking, their ideas are slow to come. It’s what makes extroverts great public speakers: they’re dynamic in a group, and can come up with ideas when speaking, even on the fly. They need meetings and find them valuable. To an extroverted person, a meeting is a wonderful tool to get people together, talking about ideas and plans, which helps the company or organization become more successful. For a group of extroverts, a meeting is effective.

Introverted people, such as myself, do not think in a group setting by talking. Introverts think when they’re alone, when they’re doing something by themselves. Personally, my best thinking time is when I write, and I prefer communicating through writing. So, when in a meeting, if someone asks me what I think, I feel uncomfortable, put on the spot, and pressured. It’s difficult for me to think in a meeting. The same could be said about talking on the phone. If ever I say something while attending a meeting, it’s probably something I’ve thought of before (when I was alone). I typically come up with an idea or opinion about what was discussed in a meeting after the fact. That doesn’t make me stupid, it’s just the way my brain works. It needs the silence and the peace.

Sometimes you have to do what don’t want to.

Someone reading this is thinking the above statement. You’re right. My life isn’t filled with what I want to do. There are some things in life I must accept: paying taxes (icky), doing the laundry, paying bills, being nice to people I don’t like, having to work for money, putting new tires on my car (cha-ching). But meetings aren’t just something I hate because I’d rather do something else–anything else, by the way, like going to the dentist–I hate them because they poop me out.

Meetings make my brain tired. Where an extrovert is energized by the flowing of ideas and all the communication, an introvert is wishing they were anywhere else, even if he’s pretending he’s having a good time.

Does this make introverted people weaker? No, it just makes us different. Introverted people pursue careers which are mostly solitary: artists, authors, designers, and many others. We enjoy time to ourselves, time for reflection. We come up with our best ideas when we’re alone.

Encountered with silence and solitude, an extrovert reaches out for company. Does this make him weak? No, just as before, wanting to be around others is just the way an extrovert’s brain works.

So, how are we to work together? Extroverts want to gather for a meeting to bounce around ideas, and introverts plan on ways and excuses to get out of meetings so they can read the minutes of the meeting and contribute their ideas after the fact. Sadly, we introverts usually lose this battle unless we can get out of it by going to some kind of medical appointment. Extroverts typically get their way. Introverts, in trying to be accommodating and “team players” drag their feet to meetings, all to be “polite.”

My solution to this problem has been to explain my position, which of course risks offending someone or being misinterpreted as rude. For a long time–well, for all of my public life–I have been subjected to an extroverted world. I’m not sure how many times I’ve been told to “come out of my shell.” (Conversely, extroverts are never told to go into their shell–it’s a wicked one way street.) In my lifetime I’ve been called shy, withdrawn, pensive, a wallflower, and have always been encouraged to be more outgoing and assertive. But that’s not who I am. I enjoy being quiet and sometimes withdrawn. I like my shell, it’s wonderfully decorated.

On the subject of Loners

Being an introvert doesn’t make me anti-social or rude. I enjoy people and the company of friends. I’m a confident person, tell jokes, banter, try to partake in small talk (I do not enjoy it, but I’ll do it), and so forth. As an introvert, I do not need a lot of social interaction to be happy, I just need a little bit. I’m perfectly content to spend most of my day alone, not talking to anyone, just doing my own thing. Does this make me a loner? “Loner” is another term applied to an introvert. It’s often used negatively, but that needs to stop. Most of us “loners” are loners by choice, not because we’re weird and cannot make friends. Yet there’s always a lot of sympathy and pity that’s doled out to those of us who are alone.

I love living alone. When I moved out of my parents house, I had a few minutes of teary sadness, then I realized how cool it was. I had my own space. To myself. FINALLY!

To be totally honest, there are a few times I’m lonely and feel sorry for myself. The time on that is probably…four to five hours in a 45 to 60 day period. To solve that problem, I call my mother and wallow. She tells me it will all be okay, and then pretty soon I bounce back and am glad to live alone. If you suffer from this kind of thing, I recommend an exercise regime. Exercise solves many a self-pity session.

I am currently single and happy. When I was younger, I dreamed of having a husband and family, and was sad that I didn’t have those people in my life. The older I get, though, the more I enjoy my independence and alone time. When I think of my future mate, I picture us together not saying anything at all, just sitting side-by-side. Whoever he is will be a relaxing presence.

For now, though, I’m having a blast without this mystery man. Life has so much to offer. There are so many wonderful things in this world, and what a beautiful world it is. We’re filled with great ideas and plans, and in the right amounts, we enjoy each other’s company.

And hey, let’s not waste so much time in meetings. Or, if you must have them, know that I don’t hate them because I’m lazy and just don’t want to go. I hate them because they hated me first. Besides, I probably have a dentist’s appointment.


  1. Dara Stepanek June 30, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    I find that I simply must comment on this. I have an interesting predicament because I both love and hate meetings.

    Firstly, I’m a raging extrovert. But I trained myself to be. A long time ago, in a land far, far away, I used to be the queen of all introverts. Then middle school hit and my family moved (mid school year, I might add) from the far away land of Iowa to the very odd land of California. Having no friends to speak of and a very different viewpoint from any of my peers (I was wearing overalls and they were wearing 3 inch heels and micro-mini-skirts) put me in a bad place. Middle school has a tendency to do that, doesn’t it? And although I once preferred being alone, I had always had the knowledge that my four very close friends would always to be willing to hang out if a moment of loneliness every struck me. Now, I had no choice in the matter. I was alone. And no one liked me. Where once I got tired of people telling me to come out of my shell, I now longed to hear at least one person ask that of me. I decided to change. I didn’t want to become the person that sought out the approval of peers that I couldn’t respect, but I did want to be noticed. I wanted them all to know what they were missing out on. So I started vying after leadership roles. Oh, so many leadership positions – I thought they would never end. But somewhere in the process of pretending to be a leader, I became one. And when I finally gained mutual respect between a small group of people in high school, I realized that I no longer thrived in my time alone. I still very much enjoyed being left to myself – reading, writing, playing instruments and such – but it was no longer my comfort zone. I was flourishing under the leadership roles and found then when I denied myself those particular opportunities, I didn’t grow. I was caught between a rock and a hard place: not wanting to fade from existence… not wanting to call myself an extrovert, that most annoying and abundant of all species. So I chose the lesser of two evils, and embraced the raging extrovert that I’d cultivated throughout the past few years. I’ve learned to keep my shell tucked away nicely in a corner of my mind and I make sure to air it out every spring cleaning, but the true introvert is lost for good. Energy simply bleeds out of me, both at wonderfully opportune moments and also at horribly tragic moments.

    Secondly, I’m ridiculously efficient. I used to diagnose this as a severe case of perfectionism, but after much research, I’ve found that while I always strive to do well, it’s really that I simply freak out if I’m not constantly doing productive things. It’s not at all uncommon for me to be yelled at for finishing assigned or delegated work before my superiors have new work for me to do… oops!

    Thirdly, I’m stubborn. (As a disclaimer, I promise that any arrogance the following paragraphs contain is 98% stubbornness and only 1% hot air. Don’t ask about the leftovers.)

    And this leads to an interesting conflict of interests: In general, I very much enjoy and even depend on conversation. I often find it hard to think when I’m alone, but being able to verbally bounce ideas off someone else will set me going like none other. Still pumped on an inhuman amount of energy, I can analyze all presented ideas very quickly (and verbally – so others can follow along) for their effectiveness and then I decide on one. If others want to hear a recap of my argument for that particular solution, I’ll walk through every aspect of why it’s the best choice (which it is *cough cough* because I’m always right) and expect the delegations for the project to be made and the meeting to end. I don’t want to beat the idea or the analysis to death; I want to start doing something about it. If a logical explanation goes over some attendees’ heads, then so be it – they can catch up later by reading over the minutes and sending an inquisitive email later (which I’ll be more than happy to answer because I’m not wasting anyone else’s time). But sitting in a meeting re-discussing and humming and hawing about the solution that is staring them in the face is pointless. If the ideas have finished their bouncing around, the words need to stop. My favorite way to end a meeting is “Aaaaand action!”; it gives a sense of closure, excitement, and expectation – brilliant!

    But what I’m finding more and more is that while I love being surrounded by people in social settings and for the idea portion of projects, I HATE being stuck in a group while actually completing the project. Any inefficiency the group has in communication or consistency is enough to make me have nightmares. Plus, I don’t like the person I become when I start grinding my teeth at my peers – that’s never pretty and always painful. What I find most distressful about the discovery of my hatred for group work is that in almost any other setting, I would very much like to have lunch and conversation with whoever it is I’m currently glaring at. Why should it make such a difference? I love people and I’m a happy person – I thrive in group settings! But I can’t stand being held back by others. My efficiency will win 8 of 9 rounds of rock, paper, scissors over my extroversion any day of the week (including the Friday night of a long weekend).

    And so I’ve found that while I depend on group meetings to generate ideas, I hate working in groups. Meetings can be the best and worst part of my day, depending on what stage of a project my mind is in. I admit that I thrive when surrounded by people – I have the power to motivate, teach, and excite; but I still relish in my alone time, rethinking through my day and laughing at my ridiculous antics as a learned extrovert. Yes, I’ve even discovered that I actually enjoy calling myself… that – my tucked-away shell gives a small shudder at the thought -, but in truth I’m neither extrovert nor introvert.

    I’m an efficientvert. 🙂

    1. Courtney July 1, 2011 at 3:13 pm

      Goodness, such a comment! There may be a budding novelist in you!

      I think there’s a general misunderstanding and mixup between extroversion and confidence. As you well know, I have my loud moments, can get very excited, and am sure of myself (sometimes too sure). I made Mary get up from her desk and jump around with me when it was announced that Deathly Hallows was being published. When in the theater for a midnight Potter premeire, I like to get the crowd going by screaming and clapping when the titles come up. Remember when we went to see Harry and the Potters? I wasn’t shy. Hmmm… I’m noticing a theme to all of my excitable moments…

      Anyway, an introverted person can be a confident person. We can have fun and enjoy people just as much as an extroverted person. And I didn’t say that one was better than another, just that we’re different, and that’s what makes the world interesting. Moving to a new place, especially from the weird world of Iowa, is scary. And California is frightening even for a native. That place is just freaky. My point is, there’s nothing wrong with being shell shocked. I’m glad that you emerged from your shell to make friends. I did the same thing when I moved to Livermore and when I moved to Washington. But to me, that’s not extroversion, that’s confidence. Knowing who you are, what you want from life, and what you’re good at in life, shapes a person’s sense of self-worth. Some introverts can have a really high self-esteem and extroverts can have a low self-esteem. What makes an introvert an introvert is a thought process: we need to be alone more than extroverts do. Extroverts need people more than introverts do. That difference is huge in some instances, but not in others.

      Introverts can be leaders just like extroverts (I’ve been one many times). Again, it’s a confidence thing, not an introversion vs. extroversion issue.

      A friend of mine on FB pointed out that our differences are the ways we recharge. After a busy day or week, an introvert will go home and chill out by themselves. An extrovert goes out with friends to blow off steam.

      As always, I luv yous, my Dara. And I like that you’re an efficentvert. The point is to know who you are and be happy with it. Don’t change or fake it to please others 🙂

  2. Pingback: I’m not alone in being alone! | Courtney Kirchoff

  3. Vic February 15, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    I love you Courtney -from Victoria (A fellow, succinct, introvert) 🙂 xx